Zurich – Researchers at the University of Zurich have developed a contrast agent that makes the blood vessels more visible in dead organisms in comparison with previous methods. This could reduce the number of animals needed in experiments.

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Precise knowledge of the anatomical layout of blood vessels is required in the diagnosis of various diseases as well as for basic scientific research, the University of Zurich (​UZH) states in a press release. Contrast agents mixed with hardening plastic resins are used on the dead organism to prevent the agent from diffusing into the surrounding tissue

Using conventional agents, however, it is very tricky to completely fill out the smallest blood vessels known as capillaries. “Without years of experience using the right injection techniques, the capillaries are often only partially filled”, explains Willy Kuo, a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Physiology of UZH, before adding: “Up to a quarter of the resulting images are therefore unusable”.

Researchers at UZH, the National Centre of Competence in Research Kidney.CH and the Biomaterials Science Center of the University of Basel have developed a new X-ray contrast agent that is easier to use and delivers higher-precision images. With this new agent, known as XlinCA, it may be possible to examine multiple organs or even whole animals such as mice at the same time, the UZH states. According to the researcher Kuo, the new agent could reduce by 25 percent the number of animals needed for experiments.

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